Pope Francis visits United Arab Emirates in February 2019 Pope Francis visits United Arab Emirates in February 2019  (ANSA)

Bishop Martinelli recalls fifth anniversary of Pope Francis' Abu Dhabi visit

Five years after Pope Francis' historic visit to Abu Dhabi marking the first-ever Apostolic Journey to the Arabian Peninsula, and the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, Bishop Paolo Martinelli, thanks God for the Pope's closeness to the 'pilgrim Church of migrants'.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Five years later, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, Bishop Paolo Martinelli, OFM Cap, has recalled the great meaning of Pope Francis' visit to the United Arab Emirates, marking the first visit of a Pope to the Arabian Peninsula and the first papal Mass for the Peninsula's faithful.

The Apostolic Vicar also highlighted the importance of the Document on Human Fraternity and Living Together signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb on February 4, 2019, calling it "a prophetic document" and "a milestone destined to mark the future of relations between religions."

Decisive impulse to interreligious dialogue

"I invite you to read this document again, make it known, and spread it to all," Bishop Martinelli said in his message, suggesting it also be used in Christian formation as "a new chapter in the history of relationships between people of different faiths."

"Education," he said, "is the primary way to create a more humane society with mutual coexistence. We must communicate these decisive values to the new generations for a better society and the common good."

Half a decade later, Bishop Martinelli recalled the "extraordinary events" that "profoundly marked" their Apostolic Vicariate and the Emirates, stressing they "gave a decisive impulse to interreligious dialogue."

"The memory of those days still fills our hearts with gratitude and awakens us with a profound sense of responsibility for the Church and the whole world," he said.

First Papal Visit and Papal Mass on Arabian Peninsula

"Pope Francis coming to our local Church," he highlighted, "was an opportunity to recognize ourselves as part of the One Church of Christ and to renew our commitment to a humble and faithful Christian testimony in the context of the Arabian Peninsula."

He recalled the immense joy for all who participated, directly or indirectly, in the Mass on February 5, presided over by Pope Francis in Zayed Sports City.

Pope Francis, he observed, "recognizes the unique character of our Church." Acknowledging that the Church is composed of faithful from over one hundred different countries, bringing diverse cultures, languages, traditions, and rites, Bishop Martinelli said, "The polyphony we are called to achieve is not just for us but is a responsibility towards the whole Church."

Pilgrim Church of Migrants

Experiencing unity in diversity, the Apostolic Vicar underlined, is the local Church's primary task.

"We are a Church of Migrants; we are a 'pilgrim Church'. And therefore," he said, "we have the unique opportunity to enrich each other by sharing our gifts, talents, cultures, and traditions.

"The Church and the world," he said, "need to see in us that diversity is not a problem or an obstacle, but a richness that comes from God for the good of all." 

Human Fraternity document, Abrahamic Family House

Lastly, Bishop Martinelli recalled that the Document on Human Fraternity inspired the birth of the Abrahamic Family House, which was inaugurated last year on February1 16, a reality that brings together three places of worship: a mosque, a synagogue, and a Catholic church.

The Church in the Abrahamic Family House was a gift from the President of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to Pope Francis and is dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi.

"I again invite our faithful to participate in the initiatives promoted by the Abrahamic Family House, which we support with conviction," he said. "We want to cry out to the world that it is possible to walk together with people of different faiths, work for peace, and promote a more fraternal world." 

Bishop Martinelli concluded by expressing their great affection to the Holy Father and their gratitude "for his precious teaching and his fatherhood," and heartily assuring Pope Francis of their constant prayers.

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03 February 2024, 11:01